Sunday, October 19, 2008


On September 2 we rolled up to the Turkmen border, having camped 5km down the road the night before. We had the typical 5 day transit visas. A truckload of German tourists just beat us to the border post but we managed to get over in 3 hours - excellent time. The Turkmen bank officials made 3 charming attempts to short change us on the silly $12 'departure cards', but no other hassles.

As we left a local Russian guide asked me if I'd seen her stranded Spanish tourists. We chatted, I joked about being a spy, and she hissed, 'Don't say that, not even as a joke!' Welcome to Turkmenistan, one of the silliest banana republics around.

I'll revisit this later.

Just one memorable moment: riding from the big Saturday Ashgabat market back into town, a bloke in a truck leaned out the passenger window as the truck went past and gave me a 1.5 litre soft drink bottle with what I thought was flat cherry cola, or some kind of juice. It turned out to be some kind of delicious wine, half way between shiraz and port!

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